Featured, News

Chico’s Bakery honored for famous Julia’s Pepperoni Rolls

MORGANTOWN — Sam Chico Sr., an ambitious young man, found himself in Morgantown when he decided to open up a bakery and dairy in the 1920s; but it wasn’t an easy road to success.
Chico arrived an immigrant with his mother and siblings. At age 8, he was the bread winner of the family by shining shoes and cutting hair.
Chico attended Penn State and covered tuition costs with the haircuts he performed in his dorm room. After graduating from college, Sam Chico Sr. moved to Morgantown and fell in love with the town and a woman, then married and pursued his own business.

Nearing a century later, the family business was passed on and is the home of Julia’s Pepperoni Rolls.

Sam Chico III, owner of Chico Bakery, purchased the company in 1999 and made the decision to solely work on mastering pepperoni rolls. The bakery had the opportunity to showcase their pepperoni rolls and represent West Virginia on July 23 when President Donald Trump hosted the second annual “Made in America” product showcase.

The showcase provided representation from each state to display the variety of manufactured products within the United States and the people that manufacture the products.

August Chico, Sam Chico III’s son and co-director of Chico’s Bakery, said he recalls getting the phone call at work and he thought it was a prank.

“My manager at the bakery answered the phone … when we have the mixers going and the ovens going, it’s kind of loud inside the bakery,” August said. “It looked like he was saying ‘It’s the White House,’ and I thought I was misunderstanding him.”
Even after the call, August was still skeptical until he received further information via email, then realizing it was the “real deal.”
Sam Chico III said being able to network with other manufacturers at the showcase was something that made a positive impact, as well.

What makes Chico Bakery unique is not only the pepperoni rolls, but Sam Chico III said his grandfather was a strong figure in the community when he opened his business and became successful with the bakery, more so than the dairy.

“My grandfather was a pillar of the community as well as an incredibly successful businessman. He started from difficult circumstances and minimalist means,” Sam Chico III said.

August Chico said nothing can compare to what he has learned working alongside his father in the bakery.

“The university education is excellent but there is nothing quite like on-hands experience and working with my dad over the summers have been one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever had,” August said. “There’s no better way to learn than on-hands experience, and I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside my dad at the bakery … that’s what’s great about having a family-run business at this day and age.”
Chico Bakery became the official pepperoni roll of the Mountaineers in 2014, and during the same year they also developing mascots for their pepperoni rolls — which can be seen racing around the Monongalia County Ballpark during the 7th inning stretch when the Black Bears play during their season.

The mascots for Julia’s pepperoni rolls that represent the bakery at the baseball games are Hot Pepper Hank, Double Stuffed Dave and Provolone Patty.

According to Sam Chico III, Chico Bakery is the largest and oldest pepperoni roll manufacturer in the area.

“It’s quite a regional item. It’s something that has grown into what is now the [unofficial] state food of West Virginia,” Sam Chico III said.

Sam Chico III has several plans for the 2019 year, including some new pepperoni rolls under way.

“We’re always working on expanding our product offerings, so we have a few pepperoni rolls in the works,” Sam Chico III said. “We’re excited about new products that we’re coming out with, as well as showing the product all across the country at food shows. We’re also toying with the idea of a retail concept … like a food court where you can get fresh baked pepperoni rolls … lots of big plans.”